Red-haired, blue-eyed Bobby Keith Moreland, variously the catcher, leftfielder, third baseman and rightfielder for the Chicago Cubs, is a strawberry statement from Texas who angles for catfish, hunts for quail, drinks blended whiskey, dips smokeless tobacco and is something of a universal baseball machine, what with playing all those positions and batting a tough cleanup. At week's end, as the sixth-place Cubs were on the rise with seven wins in their last nine games, Moreland was among the National League Top 10 in hitting (.351), homers (eight), runs batted in (29), slugging percentage (.595), on-base percentage (.390) and hits (46).
Moreland moved to Chicago from the Phillies last December as part of the Green Connection—that busload of players and other personnel who accompanied Chicago General Manager Dallas Green from Philadelphia. To get Moreland, the Cubs had to part with their most consistent starting pitcher, Mike Krukow. "On this club we felt Keith's versatility would help, especially on offense," says Green, who managed Moreland for two-plus seasons in Philly. "He's a winner, he plays hard, and we needed somebody other than Bill Buckner to drive in runs. I have great confidence in Keith in RBI situations. He just gears up." Sometimes he seems to go into overdrive, as on May 7, when he had two homers and seven RBIs in a 12-6 win over Houston.
Even as a pinch hitter and substitute catcher with the Phillies, Moreland was an outstanding batter. Coming into this season he had a .291 lifetime average—.314 in 1980—and had hit .333 as a designated hitter in the 1980 World Series.
Moreland says he'll never contend for the Triple Crown, his current stats notwithstanding. "To win a batting title you've got to run well and usually hit from the left side," says Moreland, a righthanded batter with below-average speed. "And to win the home run title you've got to be as powerful and consistent as a Mike Schmidt or George Foster [ Moreland's high was 20 homers with Oklahoma City in 1979]. I'd like to bat .300 and drive in 100 runs. That would be a great season."
Moreland is as gracious as he is talented. Last week he actually thanked a photographer for taking his picture. That was hardly startling, considering that Moreland seems to be deeply grateful for the smallest of life's favors. "I was fortunate enough to grow up in Carrolton, Texas, outside Dallas, where they have an excellent Little League program," he says. "I was fortunate enough to play on a world championship Connie Mack team. At R.L. Turner High School I had a great coach, Jim Arnold, who had winning teams every year. Then I was lucky enough to play on the 1975 national championship team at Texas and for the Phillies when they won the World Series. Everywhere along the line I've had great people and great programs.
"Why am I playing so well this year? Because I've been living in a tree, as we say in baseball. Lucky. I've hit the ball as hard before, but it seemed like a lot of them got caught. This year, every time I make contact, it drops in or goes out of the park. Even when I don't make good contact, it drops between people."
As he spoke, Moreland was relaxing at his condo in a complex in Glenview, a Chicago suburb. It was twilight and he could see geese landing on a pond near the complex's tennis courts. In the driveway a pair of Datsuns, Keith's Maxima and wife Cindy's 280ZX, were parked side by side. In the living room Lacy, a poodle, was romping with Cleo, a beagle. Cindy, a tawny brunette, was brushing the long blonde tresses of the Morelands' 4�-year-old daughter, Courtney, who is as fetching as a young Cinderella.
Moreland spit some Skoal into an empty beer bottle. "I know the Cubs would be more competitive if we had lights at Wrigley Field," he said, repeating Green's standard line, "but it's nice getting up early and coming home in time to see your kid before she's gone to bed."
It's easy to recognize Moreland at the park. He wears long sleeves even in hot weather, the better to protect his freckled arms from the sun. He gets a lot of fever blisters on his lips—another redhead's malady. And every spring he grows a beard to keep the Florida sun off his fair face. "I shave when I head north," he says, "because if I don't it gets orange and I look like Bozo."
"Before Courtney was born, Keith said he didn't care how she turned out, just as long as she wasn't a redhead," Cindy interjects.